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Ms. Saunders:

I read your editorial this morning entitled “See no Dissent, Call it Science”. I don’t wish to debate the issue of global warming. But I do take some issue with your larger point. As I understand it, you are saying that anytime there is more than one view on a topic, all sides should be presented and treated with equal respect, regardless of the weight of opinion.

That certainly sounds nice. And while I support the First Amendment right of everyone in any field to hold and express any opinion they want, I’m not convinced that the whole “teach-both-sides-and-let-the-students-decide” theory is as unambiguously correct as your portray it.

There are historians who believe there was a holocaust. There are historians who believe there was not. However, I believe that the fact that 99% of historians believe there was, along with millions of eye-witnesses and virtually everyone who doesn’t have a far-right ideological agenda to advance, suggests that perhaps we shouldn’t just “teach the controversy”. “Maybe there was a holocaust, maybe there wasn’t” is not a good way to teach history.

Similarly, there are scientists who believe the earth is millions of years old and there are people with scientific degrees who believe the earth is 6,000 years old. However, once again, the overwhelming consensus tilts one way. Thus I believe teaching “intelligent design” or creationism would actually be a disservice to our young science students. The scientists from the “Discovery Institute” have a religious agenda, which has nothing to do with science, to advance. Teaching fairy tales to science students under the guise of open-mindedness is a bad idea.

In order to “teach the controversy” I believe that we first have to define “controversy”. A tiny percentage of people on the fringe with an axe to grind, even if they have a diploma from somewhere, do not rise to the level of a legitimate controversy. There are many areas of legitimate controversy in virtually every discipline. But as for the holocaust, evolution, whether the earth is round or flat, and I believe global warming, I don’t see how any reasonable review of either the evidence available or the overwhelming consensus among the experts, can lead to the conclusion that there is an actual controversy worth teaching both sides of as if the issues were really in serious doubt.

Representative Daylin Leach
D-Pennsylvania

See No Dissent, Call It Science
By Debra Saunders

It is a sign of how politicized global warming has become when a father’s push for his daughter’s junior high school science class to present both sides of the global warming controversy becomes a national story — with the father being portrayed as the villain.
To recap, Frosty Hardison, the parent of a seventh-grader who attends school in Federal Way, Wash., was troubled to learn that science teacher Kay Walls had planned on showing her class Al Gore’s global-warming pic “An Inconvenient Truth” — without presenting any contrary information.

Hardison is an evangelical Christian who, as The Washington Post reported, sees global warming as “one of the signs” of Judgment Day. That is, Hardison fits the sort of stereotype bound to attract national media attention under the rubric: religious zealot fights science in schools.

The school board put a moratorium on showing the movie — since lifted — while it investigated whether Wells was violating a school policy requiring that, when class materials “show bias,” educators “point out the biases, and present additional information and perspectives to balance those biases.”

On the one hand, it is a sad commentary that districts see a need to restrict teachers’ ability to communicate — and that this country has become so sensitive that parents feel a need to muzzle what teachers can say in class. On the other hand, we’ve all seen teachers who think their political views are gospel.

In this case, Walls told The Washington Post that she could not find any authoritative articles that counter “An Inconvenient Truth” — other than a 32-year-old Newsweek article. CNN apparently went to the same school as Walls, as it aired a segment in which University of Maryland Professor Phil Arkin asserted, “I don’t think there is legitimately an actual opposing viewpoint to the ‘Inconvenient Truth’ film.”

Allow me to present a few names. Massachusetts Institute of Technollogy’s Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology Richard S. Lindzen complained to the Boston Globe about the “shrill alarmism” of Gore’s flick. Neil Frank, who was considered authoritative when he was the director of the National Hurricane Center, told The Washington Post that global warming is “a hoax.” Hurricane expert William Gray of Colorado State University believes the Earth will start to cool within 10 years.

University of Virginia professor emeritus Fred Singer co-authored a book, “Unstoppable Global Warming — Every 1,500 Years,” that argues that global warming is not human-induced but based on a solar cycle. Last year, 60 Canadian scientists signed a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in which they argued that there is no consensus among climate scientists.

Odd, isn’t it? Global warming believers heap scorn on religious zealots for not valuing science and knowledge. Yet the thrust of their argument to prove apocalyptic global warming relies on denying the existence of views and scientists who clearly exist.

A Boston Globe editorial mischaracterized the controversy as the mischief of some parents objecting “to having their children see” “An Inconvenient Truth” — despite the fact that Hardison had told The Seattle Times that he wanted the teacher to present “a whole broad spectrum of facts.” Buying into the teacher’s argument that she cannot find heterodox articles, the editorial suggested that Walls find her “balancing ‘data’ in Michael Crichton’s novel ‘State of Fear.’ It’s science fiction.” That was supposed to be clever.

It is fascinating to watch Gore’s acolytes belittle Crichton for being a novelist, apparently undaunted by the fact that they’re getting their science from a movie and a politician. At least Crichton is a Harvard Medical School graduate — which suggests that he has some appreciation for the scientific method. When Gore took natural science classes at Harvard, The Washington Post has reported, he received a D as a sophomore and a C+ in his senior year.

Over the phone Monday, Lindzen remarked on Gore’s grades, as he noted that global warming believers have tried to argue that there has been consensus since 1988 — when fewer scientists believed in climatic apocalypse. And those who deny that credible scientists have opposing views are “expressing their will, not their finding. They want this to be so, so they’ll ignore anything else.”

So who is the real zealot — the father who said he is happy both sides will be shown? Or the teacher who denies the existence of scientists with heterodox views?